My sincere hope is that everyone is aware of the weather situation for this weekend. If you are not, it is time to start paying attention. Harvey has re-formed as a tropical depression in the southern Gulf of Mexico and is expected to strengthen into a strong tropical storm or minimal hurricane by the time it makes landfall on the Texas coast. The category of this storm will be of little importance for us in the Houston area. It is the rain it will bring that everyone needs to be aware of. I have put together the following information based on the latest computer models and forecasts that have come in. Since it is still a couple of days out details will likely change some, so it is important to please stay tuned to local media outlets.
How strong – Right now it looks like Harvey will max out as a strong tropical storm or minimal hurricane (Category 1) before making landfall. However this does not look like a storm where focus should be on wind.
Where is it going – Currently landfall looks to to be somewhere between Corpus Christi and Matagorda Bay. After that is where things get messy. The atmosphere looks to be set up in a way that will prevent Harvey from moving much after it makes landfall. Similar to what happened with Allison. It looks to drift and wobble around north and east a bit all weekend, potentially coming close to our area by Saturday and Sunday. The very worrisome part is that now the models are keeping it around until Wednesday of next week. That is almost 5 full days of a tropical system hanging in our area.
Basically this storm will be boxed in in-between Corpus, Austin and Houston from Friday night until possibly mid-day on Wednesday.
Wind – At the moment I really don’t think wind is going to be a major issue for us in Houston. There may be some gusts on Saturday and Sunday but nothing we don’t see in a typical thunderstorm. Thus I do not think power outages will be an issue. However, as I mentioned above things could change. If it makes landfall closer to us, or drifts back out over the Gulf, as a couple of models have shown, wind could be an issue but again right now it is not a primary concern.
Rain – In all likelihood the rain is going to be the main story from this storm. Due to the aforementioned slow movement an incredible amount of rain is possible. For the past day or so almost all of the computer models have consistently painted the Houston area with at least 10-15 inches of rain with some showing over 22 inches. The rain totals are quite literally off the charts on many of these models. They put our area in white, because they do not have any other colors to signify totals over 15 or so inches. Forecasts have consistently kept us on the east side of the storm which is basically where the storm is drawing in moisture off of the Gulf. In short the rainfall has the potential to be extremely problematic. Which spots see the most will be nearly impossible to determine right now but like I said at least 10-15 inches during this event is a safe bet.
Timing – Heavy rain looks to start around late Friday afternoon/Friday night and continue potentially until mid-day Tuesday or even into Wednesday. Some gusty winds may be possible from Saturday night on, but again this is not a primary concern right now. It is not until Monday afternoon/night or maybe even Tuesday that this storm system moves off to the east of us into Louisiana.
Impacts and Preparation – It goes without saying that rain of that magnitude will cause flooding. Unlike some of our prior flooding events we at least have a couple of days of warning on this. As far as preparations go I would make sure drains in your yard are as cleared as possible. If you have a pool you may want to take some precautions as well. Most importantly though my advice right now is to prepare to be in one place from Friday night until probably Sunday, maybe Monday. This means get whatever food, water, medicine, or supplies you will need to be able to stay put for 2-3 days.
All of this is based on current forecasts. Could it end up not being as bad as this – sure, but we might as well be prepared. As I mentioned above, stay updated since details can and probably will change some as the storm gets closer. I will continue posting updates as the storm gets closer. I know many like to joke around about these storms and make light of them. I will tell you that despite being a weather-geek I am very often in that crowd. However I say with all seriousness this is not a situation to mess around with. Please take the necessary precautions and hope that it is indeed not quite as bad as it certainly could be.
As always you can follow me or tweet to me @stephenuzick.